The Nature of the Chemical Bond Goes to Press

cornell-press

[Celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Nature of the Chemical Bond. Part 4 of 6.]

Once Linus Pauling began to send in the manuscript chapters of The Nature of the Chemical Bond to the Cornell University Press, the next step was to get the text formally approved by the Press’s board of directors and to find a printer. As it turned out, these tasks were not simple ones to achieve.  First Pauling needed to deliver a complete manuscript that could be approved by the board.  Pauling’s Caltech colleague Eddie Hughes helped him by staying in Ithaca, serving as an intermediary with the Press and making last minute changes to the manuscript, as directed by Pauling from Pasadena.

Hughes was finally able to hand over a finished product to W. S. Schaefer at the Cornell Press on July 5th, 1938. A quick turnaround to print looked dicey however as, according to Hughes, “it was the seventh book they’ve had ready for press in the past three weeks.”   Schaefer promised Hughes that “the typescript would be in the printer’s hands at least before August 15,” but “it will be impossible to have the book before November 1 at the very earliest.”  This timeframe was further interrupted in late July when Schaefer broke his knee and needed to be hospitalized.  Hughes, for his part, had done all that he could and so made his way to Pasadena at the end of August.

It didn’t take long for Pauling to get anxious.  On September 9th he wrote to both Schaeffer and his other main Cornell contact, Jacob Papish, asking for any word on his book’s progress, as he wanted to use it for one of his courses in the upcoming academic year.  Schaefer responded apologetically, informing Pauling about his knee and how “the manuscript was received too late for publication this fall” because, over the summer when the book had arrived, “it was no longer possible to assemble our Committee on Publication.”  The committee was scheduled to meet within the next week, and Schaefer assured Pauling that he would “rush” publication as much as possible.

Pauling did not take this news well, and he immediately wrote back to Schaefer that he had only just heard of this delay due “to the failure of your Committee on Publication.” Pauling was even more forthright with Papish, blaming Schaefer for “still holding up the printing until this Committee meets” and calling the potential two and a half month delay “inexcusable.” Overlooking his own earlier delays in getting the manuscript compiled, Pauling wrote, “if I had known at the beginning of the summer that this delay was contemplated, I might have done something about it.”

Papish tried to direct Pauling’s ire away from Schaefer, telling him “the [delay] was not due to inefficiency or procrastination on the part of Mr. Schaefer but to the organization of the University Press” which, being composed of professors, “is not very active during the summer.”  With this, Pauling seems to have accepted the book’s fate, as he adjusted his own course schedule to incorporate the delayed publication. He also began explaining to others that his book might not be out until January, a date that, as it turned out, he would have to continually push back.


Eddie Hughes in 1957. Hughes played an important role in the publication of the Nature of the Chemical Bond and became a valued colleague of Pauling's in the years that followed.

Eddie Hughes in 1957. Hughes played an important role in the publication of the Nature of the Chemical Bond and became a valued colleague of Pauling’s in the years that followed.

With the book in press by the first half of November 1938, Pauling began to send in revisions to Schaefer since “the unexpected delay of three months has caused the book to be somewhat out of date in places.”  Schaefer was glad to include them, telling Pauling that doing so would delay the galley proofs somewhat, but that this loss “will be made up later.” Pauling started receiving, correcting, and returning the galleys to Schaefer by the end of December.  After getting through the first four chapters, Schaefer suggested that Pauling send the corrected galleys directly to the printer in Wisconsin, in order to speed things up.

In January 1939, with the process moving along, Pauling began receiving more and more inquiries on the whereabouts of his book.  Pauling had to tell sellers looking to stock his book and professors looking to use it in their courses that they would all have to wait – the initial word was that it would be ready in March, which quickly became April. During this time, Pauling also decided to add a twelfth chapter, (“A Summarizing Discussion of Resonance and its Significance for Chemistry”) suggesting to Schaefer that he prepare it for print without sending him the galleys to correct.  Pauling still hoped to have the book ready for at least part of his course.

Since all of the galleys had been returned by the end of January, Pauling was expecting the page proof to arrive by the end of February.  When this did not happen, Pauling began to get agitated again, reminding Schaefer that he was “being inconvenienced this year in teaching my class here because of lack of the book.”  The page proofs started to arrive at the end of March and order arrangements were made for the Caltech bookstore, but interferences kept arising – now an influenza epidemic had rendered the printer short-handed.  Schaefer told Pauling that “they are doing their utmost to complete your book,” but they did not want to “risk using inexperienced men for this difficult task.”  As Schaefer’s letter was en route, Pauling, responding to an earlier request to shorten his preface, had the Press add Eddie Hughes to the list of individuals thanked for helping him put the book together.  In this same letter, Pauling asked Schaefer to remove the printer from those so acknowledged.


The first edition office copy of The Nature of the Chemical Bond, containing Peter Pauling's (age 8) typed annotation.

The first edition office copy of The Nature of the Chemical Bond, containing Peter Pauling’s (age 8) typed annotation.

In mid-April, Pauling returned the final proofs, correcting any leftover spelling mistakes, and soon followed up with author and subject indices.  Pauling also wanted to negotiate the price of the book.  Forgetting that he had earlier expected it to sell for one cent per page, Pauling suggested that the 430-page book be priced at three dollars, but no more than three dollars and fifty cents.  Schaefer told Pauling that this price was not possible, partly due to the special mathematical and chemical notation required by the book.  Additionally, previous books in the Baker Lecture series had been published through the chemistry department at Cornell which had “rather lush” funding.  The series was now fully under purview of the University Press and, as such, the selling price needed to cover production costs.  Schaefer suggested four dollars and fifty cents, knowing that the Press would not garner the full price on most sales because of discounts afforded to educational organizations, booksellers, and foreign distributors.  Pauling accepted Schaefer’s suggestion of four dollars fifty cents; mostly he was anxious to get the book printed.

On May 8th, Schaefer wrote to Pauling that, at last, the day had come – The Nature of the Chemical Bond was finally being printed, nearly six months after the original date proposed. Nonetheless, the books that Pauling ordered for his students did not reach Caltech until May 29th.  Pauling told Schaefer this “was during the last of my lectures for the year, so that it turned out that the students were not able to use it very much in connection with my course.”

The same first printing containing Pauling's notes for revision.

The same first printing containing Pauling’s notes for revision.

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Returning to Pasadena and Finishing the Manuscript

Segment of Pauling's draft manuscript for The Nature of the Chemical Bond, ca. 1936.

Segment of Pauling’s draft manuscript for The Nature of the Chemical Bond, ca. 1937.

[Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Nature of the Chemical Bond. Part 3 of 6.]

While Linus Pauling, temporarily settled at Cornell as George Fischer Baker Lecturer, used his absence from his family to fuel his work and writing, he also ran into several obstacles and courted various diversions.  An early obstacle came by way of his left wrist.  Not long after Ava Helen left, Pauling’s letters home begin to describe mounting soreness in the wrist.  On November 11, 1937, Pauling’s main Cornell contact, Jacob Papish, intervened directly by calling a doctor “who said (without looking) for me to get it baked out at the hospital with a short-wave apparatus and bandaged. This was done.”

Pauling was not too impressed – later in the day he reported “I am carrying my arm in a sling – it hurts when I use it, and I find myself using it if it is free. I think it will be well soon, though. If it isn’t I’ll go to a doctor – not Papish’s.”  From the sounds of it though, the treatments started to work.  By the fifteenth Pauling told his wife that “it still hurts, but only once in a while, and I can use my hand if I am careful.”  But a few days later his voluminous writing began to catch up with him as he began experiencing cramps in his right hand and developed a callous on his pinky finger.  By the 24th, with most of his wrist pains behind him, Pauling finally remembered how he had hurt himself in the first place, recalling that he was “at Maury’s office” and “fell over backward in his chair – flat on the floor – and I’m sure that I fell on my wrist.  Isn’t it strange that I forgot that?  I’m rather tired of writing.”


Pauling also found a few diversions to break up his otherwise relentless pace of writing and lecturing while at Cornell.  For one, he took advantage of the opportunity to sit in on various campus lectures.  On November 11, for example, Pauling “listened to a long talk” that was “rather boring” but still boasting an interesting point or two – on the sweet-potato starch industry.”  Pauling also engaged in some reading, including Edwin C. Kemble’s The Fundamental Principles of Quantum Mechanics with Elementary Applications.  He likewise found time to read for pleasure, most commonly the Sunday paper and Time magazine.  He included a bit of space for fiction, including two short stories by Thomas Mann and Christopher Morley’s The Trojan Horse, which he found “very amusing” and useful for “put[ting] me in the mood (Liny’s word) for sleep.”  Alas, the technique didn’t work too well, because the next day a weary Pauling wrote to Ava Helen that he was going home early to finish the book and go straight to bed.

These diversions, it would seem, were not enough to slake Pauling’s loneliness and he continued to seek out ways to be together with Ava Helen.  At Thanksgiving Pauling wrote to his wife,

I am working hard now so that if you do come back with me in January I’ll have more time to play with you. We would have fun going to Princeton and Yale (also Buffalo – we would go to Niagara Falls again). I liked having you in the Lab. with me, but I did get worried about you, thinking that you were bored while I was trying to work. If you come back with me I’ll work in my/our room and you can read or go to bed. We used to do that in Munich. You have forgotten what it is like to have Paddy with you working.

Though Ava Helen initially protested the idea of going back to Ithaca, she gradually warmed to the suggestion.  For it to happen, they needed their helper Lola Cook to take care of the four Pauling children, including Crellin, still an infant.  This may not have been too difficult to arrange since Ava Helen had told Linus earlier, on November 11th, that Lola “said she wants to take care of the baby!”  On December 2, Ava Helen wrote, “I’d leave Lola with the baby I think and get someone to do the work.  I’m hoping that after three weeks at home you will want to return to Ithaca alone.  That would be simpler and less expensive.”  Those three weeks, as it turned out, were not enough, and Ava Helen returned to upstate New York with her husband in January.

The Paulings and Yvonne Handy at Niagara Falls, January 1938.

The Paulings and Yvonne Handy at Niagara Falls, January 1938.


As the time came closer for him to return to Pasadena for the Christmas holiday, Pauling began to run out of steam.  On December 3rd, he told Ava Helen, “I’m afraid that I’m getting stale – I’ve written only a few pages today.”  A few days later he repeated how “stale” he had become, telling his wife, “I need you to play with me and love me and make me happy again.”  Ava Helen responded the same day, though presumably to his December 3rd letter, telling him, “Of course you can’t write more on your book because you’ve worn yourself out.”  Luckily for Pauling, his plan to make a quick exit from Cornell for the winter break was successful and he was on his way home in early December.  Riding the train back to Pasadena, Pauling continued to work on his book, telling Ava Helen, “I haven’t anything to read” and, as a result, had “been planning out the last chapters of the book.”

Once Linus and Ava Helen were back together, first in Pasadena and later in Ithaca, progress on The Nature of the Chemical Bond slowed considerably – it would take several months to match the productivity of Pauling’s one month alone at Cornell, during which time he had written half of his book.  On February 10, 1938, Pauling, now back in Pasadena for good, wrote to Papsish at Cornell to let him know that he had just received his manuscript by mail and “shall now settle down to work on it with the hope of completing it before long.”  Over a month later, on March 18, Pauling told his Caltech colleague Eddie Hughes, who had stayed at Cornell to help push the book through the university’s press, “I haven’t done very much toward completing the chemical bond book, but I hope to get to work on it soon.”  The following month, when Pauling was away from Ava Helen again, he told her that he was working on the book “for a while (correcting old chapters).”

Ava Helen and Linus peeking through a train window, Spring 1938.

Ava Helen and Linus peeking through a train window, Spring 1938.


By May contacts at Cornell were inquiring into the whereabouts of Pauling’s book, but the author still had one chapter left to write.  On May 10 he told Hughes, “I am indeed anxious to get my book finished, but I am having trouble in finding time to work on it.”  Pauling decided to begin sending it in sections and told Hughes that he would finish it by the end of June, at which point Hughes could make his way back to Pasadena.

While he had not yet begun sending the manuscript to Cornell, Pauling resumed his correspondence with Papish to discuss a second edition; according to Pauling, “the field is progressing so rapidly…[a second edition] probably should be prepared in about two years.”  A month later Pauling began sending chapters one-by-one, telling Hughes that he was mostly finished “except for two or three odd sections” and “some of the figures.”  Pauling would find that his delay in getting a final manuscript to Cornell would only cause trouble and interfere with his plans to use the book in his classroom the following year.

Linus Pauling baseball!

As the Phillies and Rays prepare for another rendition of the Fall Classic, we thought it appropriate to share with you one of our favorite pieces of video:  Linus Pauling playing beach baseball at a Caltech chemistry department picnic in 1938.

Author of more than 1,100 published articles and inarguably one of history’s great minds, Pauling’s knowledge of the strike zone was, evidently, a little less authoritative.  And while coaches around the world would surely appreciate Pauling’s hustle on the basepaths, one does fear for the safety of those enlisted to play third for any team opposing the two-time Nobel prizewinner.

The Linus Pauling baseball clip is just a small segment of “The Edward W. Hughes Tapes,” a series of home movies recorded by Hughes, for twenty-five years a colleague of Pauling’s at Caltech.  The Hughes tapes, which run to just under an hour, offer fascinating glimpses of Caltech social gatherings and Pasadena life over the course of five decades.  Along with Linus and Ava Helen Pauling, careful viewers will note the presence of multiple scientific luminaries in the films — Albert Szent-Györgyi, Dorothy Hodgkin, Jerry Donohue, James Watson and Francis Crick, to name a few.

It is worth noting that the tapes also include footage from additional baseball outings at later department picnics.  Pauling — whose general disinclination toward sports was covered here — doesn’t take part in these match-ups.  One who was a bit more interested in tossing it around the diamond was 1976 Nobel chemistry laureate William Lipscomb, who, in 1995, recounted that

[Pauling’s] illness from nephritis and his frequent trips meant that we did not see him very often, but he and his family did occasionally attend the Caltech Chemists games of (intermediate) baseball in the local league.

In a footnote, Lipscomb adds a few memorable details of his time roaming the outfield with The Chemists:

Seventy-five feet between bases, softball, but hardball rules and overhand pitching from 57.5 feet. I made the local newspaper for an unassisted triple play while playing center field.

Oregon State University, of course, has become something of a baseball powerhouse, given the Beavers’ back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.  Our colleagues in the University Archives have created a terrific website documenting the evolution of this program through its centenary: Oregon State Baseball: 100 Years to a National Championship, 1907-2006.